I’ve fallen a little behind — okay, a lot behind — in updating this blog to keep pace with my international karaoke appearances. Prior to this post, my last blog entry chronicled my karaokeing in Dubai that occurred all the way back in January — which, at the time, brought the tally of countries on my World Karaoke Tour to 46. Since then, the Earth has completed a large portion of a revolution around the sun, and my country count has increased to 51.
Part of the reason for my recent quietness on the writing front is that I’ve been travelling much more often on weekends. Most of those weekend excursions have taken me to various parts of my home country, the United States, as I pursue the accomplishment of karaokeing in all 50 U.S. states. That’s an accomplishment to which I’m well on the way; as of this writing, I’ve been to 40 of those 50 states, and karaoked in all 40 of them. (I’ll recount all of my 2017 domestic travels in a post to be published in early February, 2018.) But since weekends have traditionally been my most productive part of the week for writing, my “50 states of karaoke” project has contributed to the slackening off of the pace of new posts appearing here at H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke.
With my excuses out of the way, it’s way past time to catch up on telling the story of my 2017 karaoke travels. Although my last post discussed the 46th country, I’m now going to jump ahead to the 51st country, Czechia. Then, in the coming weeks, I’ll circle back to cover the 47th through 50th countries in which I performed. (Incidentally, when I speak of “Czechia,” I’m referring to the country that until 2016 was known to English speakers as the Czech Republic, but which then re-branded itself. Technically, the official name of the country remains “Czech Republic,” but “Czechia” is its intended name for everyday usage — in much the same way as, for example, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is commonly called “Luxembourg.”)
It wasn’t easy: Czeching off this country took multiple attempts
My long-weekend visit to Prague, the Czech capital, in early September, 2017 was my third journey to that stunningly charming Old World city. Neither of the first two of those trips included any singing by me, and my return last month was an attempt to rectify that.
Visit no. 1: July 1993
The very first time I went to Prague came at the dawn of my World Karaoke Tour, in July 1993. Earlier that month, I’d sung in London, thereby making the United Kingdom only the second country in which I’d karaoked, and the first outside of my native U.S. Finding karaoke bars in every new country I entered hadn’t yet become an unwavering goal for me.
In that summer of 1993, which separated my first and second years of law school, I was studying law in Europe: 3 weeks in London (for a course in Comparative Litigation), followed by 3 weeks in Salzburg, Austria (for a course on Human Rights law, co-taught by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy). During the fortnight and a half when I was based in Salzburg, I joined some friends from the study-abroad program and took the train to Prague for a weekend. It never even occurred to me to suggest to my travelling companions that we seek a karaoke venue in the Czech capital, even thought most of them had been present at my London karaoke debut approximately two and one-half weeks earlier.
Nearly a quarter-century later, I retain fond memories of my inaugural experience in Prague, a city that only a few years earlier had cast off the shackles of Communism, and in which everything seemed to be incredibly cheap. Highlights included: (i) a tour of the city in a horse-drawn wagon, in which we were served all the beer we could drink for the duration of the tour; and (ii) playing cards under the Charles Bridge. (I think we played Hearts.) But at no time during the weekend did I sing. On Saturday night my group simply went out to dinner, and I felt no disappointment about the lack of additional evening activities.
Another oddity of that initial sojourn in Prague — at least from the perspective of the 2017 version of me — was that I didn’t take a single photograph there. I wouldn’t become passionate about photography until 2001, and not until I acquired my first digital camera in 2003 (a 2-megapixel Canon PowerShot) would photography become a pursuit integral to my travels.
Visit no. 2: June 2006
My second venture to Prague, in June 2006, occurred under very different circumstances than the first; I was 11 years out of law school, and I had embarked on a vacation to Europe that constituted solo travel. By this point, what I’d begun referring to as my World Karaoke Tour was approaching critical mass; I’d sung in 8 countries (with France having become numéro huit in October 2005), and now regularly sought out karaoke at my destinations.
What I didn’t count on when I reached Prague in ’06 was that I would fail to find a place to karaoke during my stay. I was in town for 2 nights — a Saturday and a Sunday — and despite my typical diligent research I couldn’t find any establishment in the city where I could sing on either of those evenings. Still, I enjoyed touring Prague the second time around; that burg had become even more pleasant in the roughly 13 years since I’d first encountered it, as the country then known as the Czech Republic continued to benefit from a capitalist economy and a surge in tourism. I even took a day-trip to the town of Kutna Hora, which is best known for its proximity to the Sedlec Ossuary, a chapel whose walls and ceilings are adorned with human bones arranged in decorative patterns (and which is naturally included on the itineraries of organised tours of Kutna Hora).
Nevertheless, as had been the case in 1993, I departed from Prague without having added the Czech Republic to my World Karaoke Tour. (Later on during the same 2006 vacation, Finland and Estonia would become the 9th and 10th countries in which I’d karaoked.)
Visit no. 3: September 2017
The third time was the charm. Followers of this website may recall that I required 3 visits to Italy before finally manageing to karaoke in that country in November 2015. Similarly, my third visit to the nation that had by then become known Czechia was the one that finally saw me sing into a mic in public. Visit the third took place during Labor Day Weekend, a long holiday weekend observed in the U.S. that usually falls in early September.
Once I was back in Prague, my long-awaited Czech karaoke debut occurred on a Sunday night in a bar called “Poison – Rock ‘n’ Roll Karaoke.” The management of that watering hole also maintains a location in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation; and the St. Petersburg branch was one of the venues in which I’d sung during my 2013 trip to Russia.
At the Prague location of Poison, I chose a song that has long held a place of honour on my karaoke A-list: “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers. It’s a tune that I’ve been performing since 2004. Here’s how it went down:
At long last, I’d sung in Czechia! The crowd at Poison on that particular night was sparse — perhaps not surprising for a Sunday — but I’d like to think that I entertained the few patrons who were present. 🙂 The KJ, Dennis, was very welcoming.
And that is how, on September 3, 2017, Czechia became the 51st country on my World Karaoke Tour. By the way, a note regarding geographical history: the land that today comprises Czechia consists of real estate that at one time was divided into the independent territories of Bohemia, Moravia, and Czech Silesia. Prague was the capital of Bohemia; hence the title of this blog post. (Apologies to anyone who saw that title and expected this post to feature me performing a certain Queen song that’s way overdone on karaoke nights. 🙂 )
Moving forward: what’s next for the H-Bomb
Even though I still have more of 2017 to fill you in on, exciting new stops on my World Karaoke Tour are in the works for the remainder of this year and beyond. Argentina, Uruguay, and Colombia are slated to be the next 3 sovereign nations added to the tour; I’m scheduled to depart for this South American voyage in late December. While I’m looking forward to seeing the cosmopolitan metropolis of Buenos Aires and the natural wonder of Iguazu Falls (among other things), I’m also stoked to karaoke on a continent that I haven’t spent much time in!